Monday, July 20, 2009

Self-Represented Litigants

I am involved with a work group on this topic, which has recommended these approaches to assist "SRLs":
A. Creation of state-level information resources such as:
-Standard forms and pleadings with easy to follow instructions;
-General information about the procedural and substantive requirements for filing and pursuing or defending a claim for posting on; and
-Web-based assistance that provides online document assembly based on responses of the potential litigant.

B. Creation or increased utilization of local and courthouse information access points, utilizing existing county law libraries to the greatest extent possible, through which self-represented litigants may receive guidance:
-In-courthouse help desks that offer one-on-one help regarding both procedural and substantive questions, including how to fill out forms and prepare pleadings;
-Clinics where information is provided without any interaction with the participants beyond general questions and answers;
-Clinics using volunteer attorneys where individuals receive general information and then are assisted with specific guidance based on their circumstance;
-Individual interview and counseling sessions in person or remotely by telephone or online chat.
-Automated or staffed telephone system to provide general court information (including directions to the courthouse and hours of operation) and information on available legal assistance.
-Bilingual signage around the courthouse to direct litigants to information access points and to provide orientation to the court buildings.
-“Self-help centers” dedicated to providing information regarding court procedures and legal forms that is often located near civil courts.
-Web videos developed by legal aid providers, local bar associations, and law schools to provide an overview of court processes and procedures that could be viewed by the public in self-help centers or law libraries. The videos could be very general in nature, or with the cooperation of local courts, contain more specific information for particular jurisdictions.

We are organizing a forum on these topics for court system actors - judges, clerks, attorneys, court managers, law librarians, etc. - for April 8-9, 2010, in Dallas. More as it develops!


  1. Thanks for posting about this. I've been thinking quite a bit about why non-lawyers handle their own legal work, both in court and in contracts and business documents.

    If you know of good resources about that, I'd love to see them.

    Just curious: Is the group you're working with a national one? If so, who is organizing it?

  2. We are working with a committee of the Texas Access to Justice Commission, and a national group with a number of resources on their website, -Carl